Lack of Interest Enabled by an Incoherent System
Late in my tenure as NEA chairman I awakened to the the truth that copyright extension, the DMCA, the demise of the USIA, and the 1996 Telecom Act had profoundly reshaped our cultural system, and no one from the "arts community" had been engaged in the runnup to these legislative, regulatory, and administrative transformations. What had passed for policy work in the arts during the Clinton administration had been about re-energizing the Arts Endowment, and while it was good to see the NEA budget grow again, the lack of interest in the system in which art gets created, distributed, consumed, and preserved was, to say the least, alarming.
Two reasons jump out at me: First, the policy arenas that define the US cultural system -- intellectual property, fair use, union contracts, media ownership, Internet opennesss and access, licensing agreements, mergers within the arts industries, the promotion of American entertainment products abroad, trademark, name-and-likeness rights -- are legalistic, technical, complex, and take both artists and nonprofit arts organizations into territory where few feel at ease. Also, I suspect that many fine arts nonprofits have viewed laws and regulations that determine the character of our cultural system as a slightly-distasteful necessity generated by the nasty "commercial" sector: thus hands off.
Second, when it comes to advocacy, there's no "there there" to push against. With copyright housed in the Library of Congress, trademark in its own department, mergers approved by Dept. of Justice and the FTC, movies and recordings promoted abroad by the Office of the US Trade Representative, nonprofit funding in the NEA, broadcasting with the FCC, the Internet with...Well, you get my point. We've evolved some very capable advocacy groups over the past decade (many represented in this blog), but at the end of the day, they can only nibble away at their designated issue. In the big picture no single entity in the arts has emerged to speak for the American people in addressing the big question of balancing market forces against the public's interest in a vibrant, open cultural life. Friends on this blog will not be surprised when they see me state again that we need a department of cultural affairs. Until we have a central hub that can engage the issues affecting America's expressive life the way the EPA centers environmental debate, we'll be punching pillows and the marketplace will rule.
Adrian Ellis; Alan Brown; Andras Szanto; Andrew Taylor; Bau Graves; Douglas McLennan; Ellen Lovell; Bill Ivey, William James; James Early; Jim Smith; Lewis Hyde; Marian Godfrey; Martha Bayles; Nihar Patel; Russell Taylor; Sam Jones; Steven Tepper
Contact us Click here to send us an email... more
AJ BlogsAJBlogCentral | rss
Terry Teachout on the arts in New York City
Andrew Taylor on the business of arts & culture
rock culture approximately
Laura Collins-Hughes on arts, culture and coverage
Richard Kessler on arts education
Douglas McLennan's blog
Dalouge Smith advocates for the Arts
Art from the American Outback
Chloe Veltman on how culture will save the world
For immediate release: the arts are marketable
No genre is the new genre
David Jays on theatre and dance
Paul Levy measures the Angles
Judith H. Dobrzynski on Culture
John Rockwell on the arts
innovations and impediments in not-for-profit arts
Jan Herman - arts, media & culture with 'tude
Apollinaire Scherr talks about dance
Tobi Tobias on dance et al...
Howard Mandel's freelance Urban Improvisation
Focus on New Orleans. Jazz and Other Sounds
Doug Ramsey on Jazz and other matters...
Jeff Weinstein's Cultural Mixology
Martha Bayles on Film...
Fresh ideas on building arts communities
Greg Sandow performs a book-in-progress
Harvey Sachs on music, and various digressions
Bruce Brubaker on all things Piano
Kyle Gann on music after the fact
Greg Sandow on the future of Classical Music
Norman Lebrecht on Shifting Sound Worlds
Joe Horowitz on music
Jerome Weeks on Books
Scott McLemee on books, ideas & trash-culture ephemera
Wendy Rosenfield: covering drama, onstage and off
Public Art, Public Space
Regina Hackett takes her Art To Go
John Perreault's art diary
Lee Rosenbaum's Cultural Commentary